Closets: useful home storage, or black holes of chaos?

As I’m cleaning out several closets and finding a lot of trash and broken items just shoved into the unseen recesses, I’m thinking that closets are really not the most useful storage.

Unless, I suppose, one springs for a lovely closet organizing system, that makes dark unseen recesses a thing of the past.

Why did we keep empty boxes? Dirty old shoe inserts? Or, for that matter, single shoes without any mates?

I believe that the Container Store often has Elfa closet system sales in the beginning of the year. This may be the year I succumb.

The Eternal Suckiness of Home Repair

Has anyone else had the repeated experience of getting just a bit of money set aside for a project to spruce up the actual appearance and design of room in the house, when suddenly, some necessary system or appliance breaks?

I figure I cannot be the only homeowner that has experienced this sad economic loop.

Most recently, our laundry facilities gave up the ghost, and we needed new washer and dryer. We set out with lots of ideas in mind, wish lists of features, but were, of course, reduced to buying the one and only set that would actually fit into the tiny laundry closet. (The same story happened when our old refrigerator broke. We wanted lots of amazing new features, but were stuck with the one single model at various stores that would just barely fit the available space in our 1967 house. We had one millimeter to spare.)

On a side note: I find it so bizarre how much bigger appliances are now than they were in 2014. Here’s hoping that our 1967 Montgomery Ward stove has some more years in it, because the odds are good that modern stoves won’t fit into the slot in the counter where it resides.

In this instance, putting in a washer/dryer required new duct work for the dryer (more $$) and we were also told that the floor underneath should be tiled, so that the machines would sit level. When the bath was tiled before we bought the house, the prior owners decided not to extend it into the laundry closet, so the units were never level.  (More $$)

It really grates my cheddar that we needed to spend money to tile a space that no one can even see!

But finally, finally, it’s done. The washer and dryer are back in place and working.

The money we had thought we might use to spruce up the kitchen, gone. Buh-bye! Ka-ching! Oh well, at least our clothes will be clean.

photo of tiled laundry closet floor

Tiling in progress. Filthy walls.

photo of painted and tile laundry closet

Tiling done. I cleaned and painted the walls a nice white.

Finished laundry closet

Duct work finished, laundry operational.

Do you see what I mean about all the money we spent to spruce up and fix this space and make it nice? Oh, wait, no, you don’t, because it’s totally hidden behind and beneath the washer and dryer.  Oh well… c’est la chez.



Helm Weave Chainmaille Bracelet

I just finished another chainmaille weave bracelet… again, a pattern for beginners, which is the appropriate level for me. I am very happy with how it turned out. It’s called the Helm weave. It’s made of sterling silver and has a nice heavy feel. I loved this weave because it has depth and looks amazing up close and in person.

I am thinking about my next piece, maybe a necklace, and maybe using colored jump rings of either aluminum or niobium.

Helm weave chainmaille braceletI’m hoping to be able to take a class in chainmaille soon. It’s been just about impossible to find a local teacher, but I did find a woman who says she might teach a class at a local jewelry studio sometime in July.

We do live in an amazing time, with the ability to find all kinds of free tutorials in both print and video online, plenty of books on just about any topic for sale… but for me, there is always something better about being able to sit in person, in a class, and ask questions directly.


Quick Chainmaille Necklace

This morning after breakfast, I had a half an hour and decided to try making a very quick chainmaille weave necklace. The pattern is called Japanese Lace, and it was a very simple version. In almost no time at all, I had a fun little sterling silver pendant. I rummaged around in my jewelry box for a chain to hang it from and was done.  :   )


Chainmaille Jewelry

I’ve been puttering around teaching myself how to make chainmaille (or chainmail) jewelry. Online tutorials, books, purchasing of tools and cheap jump rings, practicing making various types of weaves. It’s all been great fun, except for when the pliers slip and I jam my own hand with the pointed ends.

I finally couldn’t wait any longer, bought some sterling silver jump rings, and made my first actual bracelet, in what is called an orbital ring weave. I’m so pleased with how it turned out. I’ve included a full picture and a details photo below. Looking at them, I think maybe I should learn photography, since they are oddly shiny and fuzzy. Ah well…

Detail of sterling silver chain mail bracelet Orbital Ring Chain Mail Bracelet

My New Brain

I’ve been searching for what feels like eons for a way to organize everything I want to remember and be able to search and find things again. I used to have the perfect system for this type of organization and retrieval of data.

It was my brain.

But, as time has slipped by and I get older, I find that my brain is no longer as reliable as it once was, so I went looking for a replacement.

I may have found it in the online service called Evernote.

Evernote is, essentially, a great big database that you can use to store just about anything. The motto of the service is Remember Everything.

  • Got paper you want to scan and store online? Evernote has your back.
  • Got web pages you want to keep as reference or inspiration? Evernote has a web clipping feature that lets you save entire or partial web pages.
  • Got email you want to keep and be able to organize and search? Forward it to Evernote.
  • Want to take a screenshot of something on your tablet and store it in Evernote? Can do!
  • Want to create a note to house an image? Evernote can handle it, PLUS it comes with a way to add annotations directly on the image. I’ve already annotated an image of a floor plan I created for a room in the basement and it was so easy!

These are just a small sample of the types of things Evernote and store and organize. Evernote lets you organize in two main ways… you can create digital Notebooks full of individual notes. You can create a master notebook, with lots of sub-notebooks, each filled with notes. You can also index the content you are storing with tags.

So, for example, say I have a notebook for Home Repair. I can have individual notebooks within for every room or system in the house. Inside the notebooks, notes on repair people, supplies, wish lists, etc. And each note can be indexed with tags. So if I know I’m going to do a bathroom remodel, I might have a note about tiling the floor, which I could tag with words such as bathroomtileflooring. I could go into Evernote at any time and search by tags to locate all notes in all notebooks with those tags. So if I search for bathroom, I’d get all notes I created with that tag, no matter what notebook they are stored inside.

I’m actually so impressed with tags, that I’m wondering if it’s even worthwhile to create notebooks to organize at all. Of course, planning your tag strategy is important, because you want to be consistent with the tags you add, so that you don’t end up with multiple tags that mean the same thing… you want to have tags, but not so many that you can’t remember them, or that you have to search for several tags to find all the information you need.

As you might imagine, it’s a big job to get all the information I have stored in various formats using various systems into Evernote. And it’s a big job to map out how to organize and tag the info. But once the main input/organization is completed, and the systems and habits are set up, my replacement brain will be so helpful.

Evernote can be used to set reminders in notes. It can be used on Windows or on Macs (although I believe it has more features for Apple users), and on some mobile devices.

I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more on how to use Evernote in the coming months, as I begin the task of transferring so much into it. I think the key is to commit to it as the one place to store everything.

I’ll let you all know how it goes!

Painted Canvases Decorated

I held onto the three painted canvases for a while, trying to decide what to do with them. I knew I wanted some texture on them, but that they would probably not be able to support having anything heavy glued directly to them.

I ended up deciding to wrap them randomly in white raffia, and for one of them, the yellow one, I also glued that air clay flower I made earlier to the raffia. I painted the flower first, because the white clay got stained and dingy as I worked with it.

I tied the raffia behind the canvas, rather than gluing it down, so if I ever change my mind, I can remove it easily without damage to the canvases.

yellow painted canvas with clay flowerpink painted canvas with wrapping of white raffia

How to Sculpt Plaster

The title of this post is a question, definitely, not an answer. I’ve been in love for ages with all sorts of Moroccan design… such amazing patterns, colors, tiles, fabrics. But oddly, for me, the very most amazing things are the incredibly detailed white plaster carvings.

Apart from just a couple of videos of artisans at work, using the Internet to learn to carve plaster, even crudely, is not a good method, since it’s such a tactile thing to learn. So, with nothing much to go on, I just plunged in. I bought some craft plaster and some cheap carving tools from a local shop and gave it a whirl.

plaster carved celtic knot design

My first and rough effort at plaster carving

I mixed the plaster according to the package instructions, put it into an empty metal lid left over from a package of food, cut out a simple Celtic knot design from card stock, added some crushed green chalk into an old sock, laid the pattern on the plaster, and pounced the chalk-filled sock on top, to make a color ‘tracing’ of the design.

I then carved and carved, using the card stock design as a reference for when the ribbons of the knot should go over and when they should go under. The lack of an outer edge of my pattern was a challenge. And I learned that once the plaster hardens completely, it’s obviously hard to work with it, ha, ha, but yet perilously easy to carve too much from the wrong spots.

I really want to keep trying to learn this craft properly, but I’m at a loss as to where to find a teacher.

The New York Times had an article in 2001 about how the Metropolitan Museum of Art hired a crew of artists to create a Moroccan courtyard, which features just stunning video and images of the artisans at work. Obviously, to become a master at this would take a lifetime that I do not have, but I’d still like to learn as much as I can.

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